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GOP senator applauds restaurant stimulus money after voting against relief bill

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan | House GOP's planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities | Advocates optimistic Biden infrastructure plan is a step toward sustainability On The Money: Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan | Democrats debate tax hikes on wealthy | Biden, Congress target semiconductor shortage MORE (R-Miss.) on Wednesday applauded a portion of the American Rescue Plan that provides relief for restaurants after he voted against the COVID-19 relief bill as a whole.

Wicker in a tweet celebrated that Congress approved a $28.6 billion grant program for the restaurant and bar industry as part of the $1.9 trillion relief bill. He and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) proposed an amendment including the funding.

In a tweet, the senator said that “independent restaurant operators have won $28.6 billion worth of targeted relief” through the passage of the American Rescue Plan. 

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“This funding will ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic by helping to adapt their operations and keep their employees on the payroll,” Wicker added. 

The amendment from Wicker and Sinema intends to establish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that gives debt-free support to businesses in the industry and covers eligible expenses such as payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities.

But Wicker received widespread criticism for his tweet, with people accusing him of taking credit when he was one of the 49 Republican senators who voted against the COVID-19 relief package, which passed the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Saturday.

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The senator told reporters when asked about his vote against the bill, “One good provision in a $1.9. trillion bill doesn't mean I have to vote for the whole thing.”

When asked whether he was taking credit for something he opposed, he answered, “I was for that bill, introduced that bill, long, long before this legislation.”

“I think it’s an entirely consistent position,” he added.

An aide to Wicker told The Hill that the Mississippi senator has previously backed targeted relief for restaurants but that he “was not able to support $2 trillion in poorly targeted spending as was proposed by congressional Democrats.”

“He will continue working to advance targeted relief for restaurants and other groups that have been hit hard by the pandemic,” the aide said.

Leaders of the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the National Restaurant Association praised the Mississippi senator, along with Sinema, for proposing the amendment in statements released after the relief package passed the House.

Among those condemning Wicker for his tweet was Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime HarrisonJaime HarrisonDNC chair: We have to 'battle the damage to the Democratic brand' Democrats bet on stimulus bill to boost them in 2022 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to hit road, tout COVID-19 relief law MORE, who said the senator had “no damn shame.”

“Seriously?” Harrison wrote. “Seriously?! Y’all have no damn shame! Senator, YOU voted against the bill! Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt!”

The American Rescue Plan will head to President BidenJoe BidenHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Former Israeli prime minister advises Iran to 'cool down' amid nuclear threats MORE’s desk after passing the Senate and House with no Republican support. 

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Earlier this week, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWatchdog: Capitol Police need 'culture change' Julia Letlow sworn in as House member after winning election to replace late husband The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal after pushback MORE (D-Calif.) predicted that Republican lawmakers would vote against the COVID-19 relief bill and then take credit for it. 

“I might say for our Republican colleagues who — they say no to the vote, and they show up at the ribbon-cuttings or the presentations,” she said.

"That's unfortunate," she added. "As I said, they'll take some credit for it in their districts."